In many of the pieces for this miniseries I’ve tried to show the steadiness of bass as the lead instrument, an almost oxymoronic idea; I’m implying that the bass is holding everything down and keeping the rhythm in order, while also saying that it’s what is the driver of the songs tonal message and flair. It’s easy to understand this concept, I suppose, if one considers the bass guitar as the electric guitar where it’s not out of the question for a rhythm guitar track to block out the structure while another player (or sometimes the same player at the same time) plays lead flourishes. Purely evolutionarily the bass guitar just didn’t evolve this way within the pop/rock medium, so sometimes it’s necessary to point out when exemplary examples exist. Not to overly restate the thesis of this quick series, but I feel it just a tad necessary to point out how unique some of these tracks are.
Take today’s example; the bass rumbles underneath, while also added driving menace to atmospherically color the sound. While there is a standard guitar part and break, that is higher in the mix, the song’s bass most closely replicates the atmosphere in the dark lyric. The guitar and organ part lifts something toward a degree of outright happiness or optimism, but the bass, when played with this bit of reverb, is able to tinge the entire song properly. The Inspiral Carpets are one of the great lost, forgotten British indie guitar bands, but as shown amply here, bassist Martyn Walsh shows just one reason why many feel they were special. Here’s another;
What chance for children against such tides?
Your mother did warn you from inside
Now you’re back on dry land,
curse the place where I stand
After Adam and the Ants split in March 1982, launching his solo career proved to be an exercise in not re-inventing the wheel; the first solo Adam Ant offering (also in 1982), Friend or Foe, wasn’t that much different musically or visually (and featured many members) than the work of his previous band, the Ants. It was still a platform for Adam Ant to offer up tribal, angular rhythms with a cloak of Native American modernism thrown in for good measure. It’d prove a winning formula for him into the early to mid-1980’s, but it’d really prove successful when Malcolm McLaren would rip it wholesale to form Bow Wow Wow around the equally seductive Annabella Lwin after the Sex Pistols had had enough of him. Primal urges where always in line with Ant’s image too, and that’d be carried over into his solo career as well; animalistic sex appeal drips from the wonderful rollick of ‘A Place in the Country’ as he shrieks that his ‘brains are still right there in his hip’, as the song implies yearning for more than a quiet life with family and mortgage. The title track, ‘Friend or Foe’ purports his gleeful sardonic menace wonderfully, and to many, it also has the quintessential Ant hit: ‘Goody Two Shoes’. But for me, it’s always been the slinky ‘Desperate, But Not Serious’ that has been the most memorable from that first solo LP.
The bass work is by none other than Adam Ant himself (yes, unbeknownst to many, he’s quite an interesting player on the instrument), and it unpins and drives the whole affair. Around it the rest of the band is able to flourish; the horns swell and deflate while the guitar sparkles both low or high in the mix depending on song composition need. At times Pirroni smothers his instrument over the chorus like he’s playing a cello or violin, while Ant instinctively knows when to pull back or proceed, the great gift afforded bass players that are also lead singers. I think it’s a great argument for his ability on the instrument, but wait, didn’t he also play bass on ‘Stand and Deliver’? Hmm, care for a redo?